Rich Lowry

For all the pious rhetoric about its great respect for the United Nations and other multilateral institutions, the Clinton administration cared most about its own convenience. In addition to frustrating U.N. inspectors in Iraq, it opposed and delayed U.N. action to stop the genocide in Rwanda (too risky in terms of American domestic politics) and undercut the International Atomic Energy Agency's position on inspections during the North Korean crisis in 1993 (too much trouble getting Pyongyang to agree to stricter inspections).

The administration wouldn't let anything, even multilateral institutions, get in the way of papering over problems. This was the premise of the 1994 "Agreed Framework" with North Korea. The deal was that we would send North Korea food and fuel aid in exchange for being able to pretend that North Korea had frozen its nuclear program, which nearly everyone knew was very unfrozen by the late 1990s.

Albright nonetheless persisted in calling the Agreed Framework "one of the best things the administration has done." This unraveling fig-leaf deal was punted over to the Bush administration. As was a Saddam steadily beating containment. As was a Yasser Arafat puffed up with fawning American diplomatic attention. As was an Afghanistan brimming with terrorist training camps.

After 9-11, when it became clear how dangerous festering threats could be, the Bush administration adopted a forward-leaning approach to all these problems in an attempt not to leave them to a subsequent administration. No wonder Madeleine Albright is so uncomprehending of Bush foreign policy. It is just as alien to her as it is to her cynical and manipulative French hosts.

Rich Lowry

Rich Lowry is author of Legacy: Paying the Price for the Clinton Years .
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